CHINA', schismatic Patriotic Catholic Association launched a bitter attack on the Pope for his call for world prayer for Chinese Christians on Sunday.
The China press agency issued a statement to coincide with a Mass for China in the Vatican accusing the Pope of slander and blasphemy.
The Pope had asked for prayers for persecuted Catholics in China. The Patriotic Catholic Association replied: "This is a vicious slander based on false testimonies and to pray for such a falsehood is an insult to almighty God. The Chinese Catholics will never tolerate this.
"Honest Catholics in other countries who know the facts will not allow themselves to he hoodwinked by this little trick of Pope John Paul II."
The statement is reported to have come from constituent bodies of part of the Catholic Church in China which supports the government namely the Administrative Commission of the Catholic Church in China, the Bishops' Conference of the Chinese Catholic Church and the Patriotic Catholic Association itself. The statement is attributed to Bishop Yang Gaojian.
The statement dents hopes that Catholics in China might be allowed to come closer to the Vatican, following encouraging comments in the Official press on the role of Catholic missionaries in the country.